Selecting an appropriate personal representative when creating your will is a critical step. You want to be able to trust your representative to faithfully carry out your final wishes reflected in your will. As a result, you and other North Dakota residents will often choose close family members or friends to serve in this important capacity. However, even close friends and family members can sometimes fail to adequately serve as a personal representative.
Legal Recourse Available for Family Members and Beneficiaries
While there is little that you yourself can do in the event your personal representative fails to fulfill his or her duties and obligations (after all, you will be deceased), your family members and any beneficiaries you may have under the terms of your will are not without recourse. Your heirs and beneficiaries (if any) may petition the court overseeing your estate for assistance.
In bringing a legal challenge to the actions or inactions of a personal representative, the individual bringing the challenge will need to establish:
- That he or she is an “injured person” in that he or she is an heir or a named beneficiary under the terms of a will who is suffering some tangible loss as a result of the personal representative’s actions;
- That the actions and/or inactions of the personal representative are more than slight carelessness or inattentiveness but are rather akin to a dereliction of duty in that the actions taken or delay in taking action are so unreasonable that no personal representative similarly situated would have engaged in the same behavior;
- The losses experienced by the individual can be remedied through an order of the court. This order may relieve the personal representative of his or her position and appoint a new representative, order the offending representative to pay monetary damages, and/or other similar relief.
Challenges in Confronting the Personal Representative
Even when it is clear the personal representative is not doing his or her job, confronting this person through a legal challenge can strain family ties and cause family squabbles to intensify. Any representative appointed to relieve the negligent representative may attempt to “punish” the whistleblower who reported the previous representative to the court, thereby making matters even worse.
In this situation, the experienced and dedicated North Dakota legal team of O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys can be an invaluable ally. Not only will the firm’s knowledgeable probate attorneys help determine whether a personal representative is violating his or her ethical and legal obligations, but they will help you understand what recourse, if any, you have to protect your own rights. If you are the heir or beneficiary of a decedent, we can help you take appropriate actions so that you are able to receive the property or assets that are rightfully yours without causing unnecessary strife. Call our firm today to discuss your case by dialing (701) 235-8000 or (877) 235-8002.